Turkey Withdraws Blacklist to Ease Tensions With Germany

(Bloomberg) —

Turkey withdrew a list of accusations against German companies, seeking to de-escalate tensions that flared last week between the two NATO allies.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere spoke with this Turkish counterpart Monday, and was told the almost 700 accusations involving German companies were a “communication problem,” Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said in Berlin. Turkey’s interior ministry said no German company is being investigated by Turkey, and last week’s complaint was a misunderstanding that has now been cleared up.

German federal police on Friday declined to investigate the claims, saying the Turkish list didn’t contain anything concrete enough to warrant follow up. German media reported some items included allegations of working with local entities linked to terror organizations.

The detention of a German human-rights activist in Istanbul last week led to a war of words between the two countries, the culmination of months of discord over NATO troop visits, imprisoned journalists and Turkish Nazi references. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s veteran finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Friday compared Turkey to the former communist East Germany, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country wouldn’t give in to threats or “blackmail.”

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier argued over the weekend that the German government is right to act against unacceptable Turkish policies under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom Steinmeier said is seeking to shut down domestic opposition.

“Many who have worked cooperatively with him and his party in the last few years are now being persecuted, are thrown in jail, are being silenced. We can’t accept that,” Steinmeier said in an interview with ZDF public television broadcast on Sunday. “It’s a question of the self-esteem of our country to send clear stop signals.”

Along with being NATO allies, the two countries have other deep ties. Germany is Turkey’s biggest trading partner, and the largest minority ethnic group in Germany is Turkish. Companies including Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Siemens and Volkswagen have local operations in Turkey, and the German government depends on the country to help stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Merkel criticized Turkey’s actions in unusually strong terms last week, denouncing the detention of the activists as “absolutely unjustified,” prompting Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to announce a “re-orientation” of Germany’s Turkey policy and warn companies about doing business in the country.

Erdogan responded on Sunday that Germany’s actions are “unforgivable” and suggested retaliation. “No one can interfere in Turkey’s internal affairs,” he said. “The government will do everything against those who are agents against Turkey.”

Schaeuble said in an interview with newspaper Bild published Monday that Erdogan’s policies “jeopardize the centuries-long partnership between Turkey and Germany. So much binds us, but we can’t let ourselves be blackmailed.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must ensure that its rules are applied in Turkey, Volker Kauder, caucus leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc in parliament, said Monday on ARD public television, adding that it’s “not acceptable” that the Turkish government is denying lawmakers from allied countries such as Germany access to NATO bases.

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